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Driver in Spanish Train Disaster Being Held on Suspicion of Negligent Homicide

In this photo taken on Wednesday July 24 2013, train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is helped by two men as he is evacuated from the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (AP)

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (AP) -- Spain's interior minister announced Saturday that the driver whose speeding train crashed, killing 78 people, is now being held on suspicion of negligent homicide.

Minister of Interior Jorge Fernandez Diaz announced the step against Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, who previously had been detained on suspicion of recklessness.

The minister also said Garzon, 52, has been discharged from the hospital and taken to a police station.

Spain train driver In this photo taken on Wednesday July 24 2013, train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo is helped by two men as he is evacuated from the site of a train accident in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (AP)

Blame has increasingly fallen on the driver, with the country's railway agency saying it was his responsibility to brake before going into the high-risk curve where the train tumbled off the rails and smashed into a wall. But it's still not clear whether the brakes failed or were never used, and the driver has remained silent so far.

A blood-soaked Garzon was photographed Wednesday being escorted away from the wreckage, at first by civilians who had hurried to the scene of the accident and then by police, but it is not clear just what his medical status is.

Unconfirmed media reports said that Garzon had injured ribs.

Spain train In this photo taken on Wednesday July 24 2013, Emergency personnel respond to the scene of a train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. (AP)

He had been expected to give a preliminary statement to judicial police as early as Thursday, but that process was delayed, reportedly due to health reasons. Earlier Saturday, the justice department said Garzon's first appearance before a judge had been postponed until Sunday.

In Wednesday's crash, the train's eight carriages packed with 218 passengers blazed far over the speed limit into a curve and violently tipped over. Diesel fuel sent flames coursing through some cabins.

The president of Adif, the Spanish rail agency, said that the driver should have started slowing the train 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) before the dangerous bend. He said signs clearly marked this point when the driver must begin to slow.

Normally, police take a first statement that is then examined by an investigating judge who must then take testimony within 72 hours of the arrest. That deadline is Sunday.

Although that initial court hearing would be closed, it would give hints about the status of the investigation. The judge would decide whether to jail the driver as an official suspect, release him on bail, or release him without charges. If a judge finds sufficient evidence for a criminal trial, the suspect will be charged and a trial date set.

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